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The next Twitter trend – Protected Updates

Twitter protected updatesI’m predicting that Protected Updates are going to be the next big Twitter trend.

Why? Because the mad rush for maximum followers has run its course. And people are now realising that having thousands (or even millions) of followers is next to useless (except of course for the psychological reasons). There’s so much noise these days.

Instead of quantity of followers, people will want to build a quality following…

Pruning season

I’ve spent the last two weeks pruning back most of my social networking connections. Twitter and FriendFeed are easy (since it actually looks better to have more people following you than you follow right? :-) ) but now I’ve started culling friends on Facebook too. Yes, I’m actively trying to have less friends. Why? I’m trying to reduce the noise. I’m after quality and credibility. In relationship terms its about deeper, not wider.

Protected Updates

So, back to Protected Update Twitter streams… why would this be any better? Here’s my thoughts:

  • Firstly, if your stream is protected, then its likely you aren’t just out to garner a huge following. Instead you want a quality following.
  • Second, if you aren’t out to just get as many followers as possible, then chances are you’ll probably avoid all those ‘noisy’ Twitter tactics (linking to stuff for the sake of linking, asking questions you already know the answer to, criticising companies in the hope of getting a re-tweet, etc).
  • Third, and following from the second, you’ll like be interested in building credibility. It’s much better to have a few passionate people reading most of your tweets, than thousands of people very rarely reading anything you have to say.
  • Fourth, it creates exclusivity. Imagine if SMEs (subject matter experts) had special protected feeds in which they dispensed high value content, perhaps breaking news, or special tips, before they released it publicly. And you could follow their protected stream. Wouldn’t you feel privileged?
  • Fifth, it creates value. If you are amongst the exclusive few who are allowed access to a quality twitter stream, then I suspect you’re going to value the content on those streams more.
  • Sixth, it is a monetization strategy. This is actually the main reason I think. If you currently provide membership programs or pay-per-view content (including everything from small business programs through to Wall Street Journal subscriptions) then having a protected Twitter account is another way to offer value to your members. It is a feature they get for being a paid member. Imagine if you are a respected stock analyst with people on your exclusive members only email list. Providing an exclusive Twitter account for them to get immediate insights is the next logical step.

Problems

There’s a few problems to be overcome (eg there’s nothing to stop people simply re-tweeting a protected stream), but they’d get worked out in time (eg the person who re-tweeted the protected stream would likely get blocked).

It’s not about Privacy

You’ll note I haven’t mentioned anything to do with Privacy, since that’s a whole topic in itself.

Summary

Twitter (and social networks in general) have reached a point where their mass broadcast value is diminishing. The signal-to-noise ratio drops further everyday. Quantity of followers is becoming less important. Quality of followers is the aim, and credibility of content is the key.

In terms of Twitter, protecting updates is one strategy whereby acknowledged experts in their field can make their presence more valuable. And once the experts (and then the celebrities start doing it) watch as everyone else follows suit.

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